Marlborough wine leaders visit China

Ningxia delegation leader Kailong Cao visited Brancott Estate, near Blenheim, in March and met Diana Dobson of the ...
ANTHONY PHELPS/FAIRFAX NZ

Ningxia delegation leader Kailong Cao visited Brancott Estate, near Blenheim, in March and met Diana Dobson of the Marlborough Falcon Trust.

A visit to an emerging winemaking province in China could pave the way to a sister city relationship with the region, the Marlborough mayor says. 

A group of six wine industry leaders and a Marlborough District Council representative left Marlborough for Ningxia, China on Saturday.

The group will attend a wine conference in the region and be hosted by the Ningxia Wine Bureau, which is meeting the cost of accommodation and transport in China. 

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said there was long-term potential for Marlborough viticulture, winemaking, wine technology and wine education businesses in the region. 

The Ningxia province, located about 800 kilometres west of Beijing, was the fifth largest grapegrowing area in the world.

The area had 34,000 hectares of grapes compared to Marlborough's 23,000ha. 

There was a possibility that the Marlborough District Council could establish a regional friendship agreement with Ningxia's provincial government in the future, Sowman said. 

"This is an exploratory visit but with individual Marlborough wine industry people already beginning to develop contacts with Ningxia, this is an opportune moment to signal that, as a region, we are interested in a future relationship."

Marlborough Research Centre chief executive Gerald Hope and council economic development officer Cathie Bell travelled to Ningxia along with representatives from Marlborough wine businesses VinWizard, Wineworks, Vitis and Viscosity.

Council economic development manager Neil Henry said Sowman might visit Ningxia later in the year. 

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The council had two sister cities in Japan, but none in China. 

Establishing a civic relationship with the province would help Marlborough businesses to strengthen economic ties, Henry said. 

"We want to support our local businesses to explore opportunities overseas." 

Council economic development officer Cathie Bell would be making connections with provincial government officials in Ningxia during the seven-day trip, Henry said.
 
Council spend on the trip to date was $2800 for Bell's flights, and $160 for her visa, he said.
 
It was possible there would be further costs but those would not be available until Bell had returned from the trip. 

 - The Marlborough Express

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